Why the trial of Rusagara and Byabagamba is a blessing in disguise

On 30th January 2016, Ugandan President made a desperate call to General Elly Tumwine asking him to effect General Sejusa’s arrest to which he declined. The same request was turned down by General Salim Saleh. It was Gen. Moses Ali who agreed to effect the arrest but he later declined as well. Finally, Gen. Katumba Wamala (out of the country then), took up the job and delegated Brig. Angina Charles to arrest Sejusa, on the morning of Sunday, 31 January 2016.

Prior to their fleeing, both General Kayumba Nyamwasa and Col. Patrick Karegeya were at loggerheads with their supreme commander to pin each other of subversive activities, to which they both declined. Any right thinking person would feel proud of such men of honor and dignity. In the same way, any right thinking person would feel ashamed by the acts of accomplished and educated military officers like Brig. Rutatina, Col. Karege or Rutaremara in the ongoing trial of Col. Tom Byabagamba and Brig. Rusagara.

But beyond the pain and trauma suffered by the two officers lies a blessing in disguise unseen by many- that it is not the two officers on trial but rather their supreme commander on trial- and by extension, the RDF. Once seen as an ideologically coherent rebel force turned national army, the RDF’s disintegration is now a foregone conclusion. When military generals deny being friends to each other despite having been close in the thick and thin; then you know the unity of purpose has been the first casualty. When a relative denies being related to the accused, cracks in the mirror become visible to even a mentally retarded.

Secondly, when the supreme commander deliberately or otherwise cuts the branch of the tree on which he sits in a deluded belief that he is consolidating his power, then I simply say: May he arrest more Byabagambas and Rusagaras. Not that i am indifferent to their pain and trauma, but because they are the ultimate sacrifice and price we have to pay. Unknown to them, it is not the two on trial, it is their commander on trial.

Thirdly, few years ago, both Rusagara and Byabagamba were flying high when some of their accusers like Rutatina were facing hell. It has become a political culture in Rwanda to divide and micromanage both the RPA and the RPF. People have been used against the other only to end up in the same predicament; days later. Certainly, as chairman of the military court and, before then, secretary general in the ministry of defence; Rusagara crossed many a lives. As the mighty head of the supreme commander’s security detail, Byabagamba stepped on many a toes. All in fulfilling their commander’s insatiable thirst for absolute power. Painful as it is, it is good that they realize that after all, they were ticks who in a wink of an eye can be disposed off, which literally widens the base of opposition forces.

Lastly, any right thinking RDF officer knows or has reasons to know that none is immune to their commander’s wrath should he wake up on the wrong side of his bed. The net result of this is that there will be an unprecedented decline of allegiance to their supremo. Without going into details, the present cracks within the RDF pinpoint to this reality. Any right thinking RDF officer, commissioned or not, has to ask himself/herself what he stands to gain by accusing a comrade in a trial when he will, too, be accused of the same crimes in few years to come. Taken further, such officers are likely to turn against their supremo (may karma forbid). This is the glaring historical lesson we fail to master until it comes knocking on the door.

Didas Gasana